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Overcoming Objections to Automating AP

By being able to highlight the tangible bottom-line benefits of AP automation, controllers can persuasively make a case to the executive suite for adoption.

Many controllers or AP managers routinely come up against some serious impediments in the manual AP process. These challenges are a direct contributor to why so many are now looking to AP automation to streamline processes and eliminate road bumps. However, when AP controllers bring the idea to upper management – including their chief financial officers – they may be rebuffed for a number of reasons.

It’s perfectly understandable why CFOs and other top-level decision-makers may be hesitant to make what can sometimes be a sizable investment – in terms of both time and money – in changing their entire AP processes. Further complicating matters can be deeply ingrained habits and an unshakable trust in manual AP processes. However, those with boots on the ground, dealing with all the inefficiencies that can come with even a fine-tuned manual AP process every day, will know just how valuable the switch can be in terms of providing return on investment in both the short- and long-term.

With that in mind, it may be incumbent upon those managers to know how to address the common concerns CFOs or other execs might bring up when proposing automation. Here are a few:

“Executives often can’t know just how many issues crop up for their AP departments on a daily basis.”

“Everything Already Runs Smoothly”
This is perhaps the most common objection when taking the step to automate AP processes, revealing that many in upper management may simply not have visibility of the challenges tied to manual AP. From the outside, executives often can’t know just how many issues crop up for their AP departments on a daily basis. Having a frank conversation about the issues can be helpful here, particularly if you come armed with data showing how long each step in the invoicing process can be, as well as highlighting just how many man-hours can be saved by switching to automated AP.

“We’re Not Big Enough”
Smaller companies may not feel they’re doing enough business to actually justify such a transition. Even providing that automation can cut the time devoted to the AP process by over 50 percent, they may point to the handful of invoices processed manually every month as being operationally sustainable. But over the course of a year, this “handful” may add up to thousands of invoices or more, each of which can take hours to push through the approval and finalization processes. For small AP teams, that’s a lot of man hours to devote to just one aspect of the job. Giving executives that holistic view may help them to more fully understand the issue, and better see the value of automating.

“We Just Don’t Have it in the Budget”
Many businesses see the cost of automating AP as a huge hurdle to adoption, but managers can highlight  both the hard and soft  cost savings that such a switch provides. These include being able to take the additional man hours of AP staffers and redirect them to “value added” activities, the ability to get cash back or other rewards for handling more B2B payments with corporate credit cards, and additional security that can significantly reduce the risk of fraud. Altogether, these benefits can help companies save a significant amount of money over the course of the year, and help recoup the cost of automating.

Equipped with insight about the myths and preconceptions that frequently stand in the way of AP automation, controllers can make a solid argument for implementation. The goal is to address the quantifiable and tangible dimensions of AP processes: many of the obstacles to adoption boil down to the fallacy that automation is “too expensive” or “not necessary.” By being able to highlight the tangible bottom-line benefits – as well as outline what other projects resources could be diverted to, if AP staff is freed from manual tasks – managers and controllers can persuasively make a case to the executive suite for adoption.

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